IDAHO FALLS — When Bryant Belnap closed the door on his private practice, he turned to the open road on a sleek bike and began racking up the miles.
After a few years of mild success in amateur cycling throughout the western states, the retired physical therapist from Ammon was determined to cross something very special off his bucket list.
Belnap turned 70 this year and determined that this milestone should be marked with a challenging physical accomplishment – completing the Utah Triple Crank Challenge. This prestigious moniker belongs to those who complete three of the biggest endurance road races in a single season.
He joins a short but elite list of cyclists who have finished the Kokopelli Relay, the Iron Lung and LoToJa in one calendar year. There were only 28 to join the ranks this year and just two Idaho residents.
The Kokopelli Relay was held in early June. It is a 530 mile road race from Moab to St. George Utah. It offers 31,576 ft of climbing and is a continuous race, requiring that cyclists ride through the night.
Belnap was part of an eight man team who survived difficult, steep terrain and unseasonable heat – at times reaching 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Belnap rode at night through Capitol Reef National Park, uphill and in total darkness. He finished the race in 109 degree temperatures from Vejo to Ivins, Utah. The team finished 6th in their division in 35 hours, 22 minutes and 53 seconds. Belnap was the oldest participant in the relay.
The Iron Lung Road Race was held July 16 and is a 100 mile race with more than 7,300 feet of climbing. It starts and finishes in Huntsville, Utah. The route follows the eastern side of the Wasatch Mountains through Snow Basin ski resort and up and down the switchbacks on Big Mountain. One of the most difficult aspects of this race is that it finishes with a climb. The race is not a timed event but he finished in about 6 hours.
LoToJa was held Sept. 10. The race route covered 206 miles from Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is the longest one-day race sanctioned by USA Cycling in the nation. It requires cyclists to climb three steep mountain passes and ride through rigorous terrain in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. LoToJa is one of the nation’s premier amateur cycling events. Bryant finished 6th in his division of Licensed Racers 65+. He did it in a time of 11 hours 27 mins.
The Utah Triple Crank is a distinction racers of any age would rest their laurels upon. But this septuagenarian then made his way to the Huntsman Senior World Games in St. George, Utah in October. He was entered in Division II (experienced rider) 70-74 years old.
The competition started with the Hill Climb up Snow Canyon. Belnap grabbed the gold in this event with a time of 16 minutes, 27 seconds. The silver medalist was 26 seconds behind.
The next day of competition was the event known as the Criterium race on a circuit road course. The cyclists are all packed together as they charge around a short 1.2 km course, 16 times.
Belnap finished in second place with a time of 22 min 10 sec to nab a Silver. The gold medalist finished 1 second ahead of him
The next event was the road race held in Leeds, Utah, on a 43 km course. In just 1 hour, 26 minutes and 5 seconds he had won the gold and left the silver-place finisher 10 seconds behind.
How does an athlete find the stamina to keep going? He said that during the final hill climb he called out in cadence to his pedaling, “I LOVE PAIN. I LOVE PAIN.”
The final race of the weeklong event was the time trial, a 20 km road race with gentle elevation changes. He powered through for the performance of the season, finishing in 32 minutes, 40 seconds.
He was awarded the gold, leading the field by more than a minute. With that time, he could have won the younger age division in his category and also the Expert division 1 category in his age division.
The accrual of overall points for his 2022 Huntsman Games results secured his position as winner of the Overall Cyclist Award for his age division and category.
This means that if he returns to the Huntsman Senior games next year he will be required to register in the Division I Expert division, not too shabby for a grandpa of 13.